Hi-Chew is taking a bigger bite of sponsorship.

The Japanese candy import plans to expand its year-old sponsorship push with new ties to action sports, music festivals and art events.

“We’re constantly looking for new events,” said Clayton Perkins, Hi-Chew marketing manager with Morinaga America, Inc.

The unit of Tokyo-based Morinaga & Co. is using sponsorship to build visibility, sample product and Americanize the Hi-Chew brand. The company hired Perkins in 2011 to reposition Hi-Chew from a quirky Japanese product to a mainstream brand.

“My job is to create awareness and a buzz for Hi-Chew.”  

Morinaga America is ramping up marketing as it expands sales beyond Asian supermarket and specialty stores. The company sells through Costco, Kroger, Walmart and other retailers in the Western and Northeastern U.S.

Morinaga positions Hi-Chew as a product for teen- and twenty-something consumers who participate in active lifestyles. The chewy candy is similar to Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.’s Starburst fruit chews.

“As a candy brand we recognize we’re in a tough spot. No one is pro obesity and sugar. We position Hi-Chew as a product for the active lifestyle consumer.”

As such, the brand targets events that draw young, active consumers. 

New deals for 2013 include the Governors Ball in New York City; USA Snowboard and Freeski Assn.; Hurley Rip My Shred Stick youth surfing events and the Volcom Wild in the Parks amateur skateboard series.

The company also sponsors the Summer X Games in Los Angeles and the Electric Zoo music festival in New York City, among other events.

Morinaga activates the ties with a 19-foot customized Airstream trailer. The trailer features a lounge area where attendees can sample product, play video games, listen to music and receive branded items.

“I can tell you how great our candy is until I’m blue in the face, but you won’t know it until you try it,” said Perkins. The company plans to sample two million pieces this year, up from 1.8 million in 2012.  

Morinaga plans to expand its portfolio with local events that support the X Games and other large properties, added Perkins. The company targets events in California and the Northeast, both of which are Hi-Chew’s core markets. 

While Morinaga is using sponsorship to Americanize the Hi-Chew brand, the company has not abandoned its Japanese roots. Hi-Chew sponsors a handful of anime and comic book conventions including Anime Boston and the San Francisco Animation Convention, both of which were new for 2013.

Boulder, Colo.-based Match Action helps execute ties.